Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
The Soul Selects Her Own Society
by Emily Dickinson
The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.
Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I’ve known her from an ample nation
Then close the valves of her attention
“The Soul Selects Her Own Society” by Emily Dickinson. Public Domain. (buy now)
A Category 4 hurricane hit Galveston, Texas, on this date in 1900. The city is located on a low, flat island off the coast of Texas, about 50 miles southeast of Houston, and in 1900 it was a bustling port city. On this late summer day in 1900, Galveston was packed with tourists and vacationers, in addition to the town’s 40,000 permanent residents. People were aware of a strong tropical storm that had hit the Florida Straits on September 5, and Cuban meteorologists tried to warn their American counterparts that the storm was strong and damaging. The U.S. Weather Bureau ignored the warnings, convinced that the storm was on a curved path that would take it up the Eastern Seaboard.
With the limited technology available to forecasters at the time, it was very difficult to predict which way the storm would go, and the bureau deliberately avoided using the word “hurricane,” for fear of causing widespread panic. As a result, the people on Galveston Island weren’t warned until the central Weather Bureau office in Washington, D.C., sent out a warning on September 7. The weather seemed fairly calm, so most people on the island disregarded the warning.
The highest point on the island was only nine feet above sea level, and there was no sea wall because no one believed it was necessary. The hurricane brought a storm surge 15 feet deep and submerged the whole island, knocking buildings off their foundations. Telegraph lines and bridges to the mainland were destroyed. There was no escape and no way to call for help. A survivor later told the New York Times: “I managed to find a raft of driftwood or wreckage, and got on it, going with the tide, I knew not where. I had not drifted far before I was struck with some wreckage and my niece was knocked out of my arms. I could not save her, and had to see her drown.” Another survivor said: “It’s a sight I hope I shall never see again. Destruction and desolation; wreckage strewn everywhere, chaos, and that voice still ringing in my ears, ‘Save me!’” The Great Galveston Hurricane killed 6,000 to 12,000 people, and remains the deadliest natural disaster in United States history.
It was on this day in 1920 that the first transcontinental U.S. airmail service began, from New York to San Francisco.
The Wright brothers made their first flight in 1903, but it took a while for them to convince the U.S. government that airplanes were a technology worth pursuing. The brothers approached the government three separate times in 1905 hoping to interest them as a customer, but to no avail. The military finally agreed to purchase a plane from the Wrights in 1908, but it crashed during flight trials, killing the military observer and injuring Orville Wright. A year later, the flight trials resumed, and this time the government actually purchased the plane.
Over the next couple of years, the public became more interested in aviation and its potential beyond military use. In 1911, the Post Office Department expressed interest in the new technology. That fall, an aviator named Earle Ovington was sworn in as the first U.S. airmail pilot moments before taking off in his monoplane from Garden City on Long Island. He had a bag stuffed full of letters and postcards. He flew three miles to Mineola — also on Long Island — and when he saw the signal from the postmaster, he dropped the bag of mail from the airplane. The bag exploded when it hit the ground, scattering mail everywhere.
For several years, the Post Office Department sponsored more experimental flights across the country, mostly at county fairs or aviation events. The flights were successful, and the Post Office asked Congress for funding to try airmail service. They finally agreed, and the first airmail flight was in 1918, with service from New York to Washington, D.C. Flights went smoothly, but the public response was lukewarm — people didn’t want to pay the higher airmail postage just for a slightly shorter trip. Airmail pilots ended up carrying a lot of letters paid with normal postage, just to fill their bags.
The Post Office decided that fast transcontinental service would be a major attraction to consumers, and built airfields that went straight west from New York. There were 15 airfields in all, beginning with New York and including Cleveland, Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno, and finally San Francisco. The biggest challenge was crossing the Rocky Mountains in lightweight planes. On this day in 1920, the first service went across the entire country. The experimental flight carried about 100 letters, and landed in East Oakland.
On these early airmail planes, pilots navigated by dead reckoning because their planes weren’t equipped with radios or any sort of navigational tools. One of the young pilots flying the Chicago to St. Louis route was Charles Lindbergh. Twice he encountered bad weather and had to bail out of the airplane.
It still took a while for airmail to catch on. When the first transcontinental service began, pilots flew only during the day, and then put the mail onto trains for the night. The journey from New York to San Francisco was only 22 hours faster by airmail than regular mail. In 1921, mail was flown overnight for the first time, and suddenly mail could reach from coast to coast two to three days faster. The government was impressed and awarded the Post Office Department more than $1 million for the expansion of airmail. The success of these cross-country flights paved the way for commercial airlines, which followed many of the routes designed for airmail pilots.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®